Sometimes I Cry.
Article Type: Theater review
Subject: Theater (Theater reviews)
Author: Magenya, Sheena
Pub Date: 06/01/2008
Publication: Name: Sister Namibia Publisher: Sister Namibia Audience: Academic; General Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Social sciences; Women's issues/gender studies Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2008 Sister Namibia ISSN: 1026-9126
Issue: Date: June, 2008 Source Volume: 20 Source Issue: 2
Topic: NamedWork: Sometimes I Cry (Play)
Persons: Reviewee: Ralph, Sheryl Lee
Accession Number: 184549999
Full Text: SPEAK OUT! These are the words still ringing in my ears, days after watching Sheryl Lee Ralph's Sometimes I Cry, a one-woman show that tells the stories of women living with HIV and Aids, stirring up emotions that make ever more real the impact of the virus in our society. The performance was one of two held during Sheryl's week-long goodwill visit to Namibia, sponsored by the US Embassy to open dialogue around issues that put women at high risk of HIV infection.

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Becoming human

Being a highly acclaimed actress in the United States, many people wondered why Sheryl chose to take on such a project. "There are only so many people that you can watch drop dead, one after the other like dominoes before you realise that this is not right. This is not normal. This will not be gone tomorrow, and this will not leave me out." She came to this realisation after many of her fellow actors and friends started "dropping like flies."

She explains that in the US, scientists had first called the disease GRIDS (Gay Related Immune Deficiency Syndrome). "But as time went by, we began to see that it was not limited to gay, white men, but was quickly taking on the shape and face of African American heterosexual women. GRIDS then became HIV and Aids - the G for Gay became H for Human, and we realised that this disease does not discriminate."

Women's stories

Sometimes I Cry tells the stories of three very different women and their brick-wall will to survive. Ms Chanel is young, black and beautiful, with money to boot. She will never forget the day she found out she was HIV positive, but she will also never forget who she was before she learnt about having the virus. At one of the finest restaurants in 'the city' Miss Chanel suffers the indignity of having her body betray her when her bowels run loose, right there, in front of everyone. Ms Chanel is embarrassed and ashamed, but not defeated. She cleans herself up, settles her bill and walks out of the restaurant, head held high, because that is the person she is; with or without the virus. Her story and the stories of the other women - an eighteen-year-old mother who grew up in foster home after foster home where she suffered rape and abuse at the hands of her stepfathers and brothers, and an African women who lost her sister to Aids - cement the idea that these women are bigger than the disease, and that they are determined to survive with dignity.

From monologue to dialogue

At the end of the performance, Sheryl opened up the floor to the audience. The crowd was hesitant to comment and Sheryl had to provoke them into speaking out. "We do not have anybody in Namibia standing up and speaking out about HIV and Aids, especially the leaders. We don't have anyone to look up to," stated an audience member. This prompted the response that there are many women in Namibia who are speaking out everyday about the disease. "There are already five, ten, twenty Sheryl Lee Ralphs in Namibia, telling their own stories - in support groups, at public events and in the media, such as in Sister Namibia. While living positively with the virus they are providing home based care to others, running children's shelters and caring for orphans."

A brother in the audience called for a "return to culture" as a means of preventing the spread of HIV, but was strongly challenged by a sister who condemned oppressive cultural practices that give men control over girls' and women's bodies.

Sheryl's message had come across loud and clear: we must all find the courage to SPEAK OUT!

A review by Sheena Magenya
Gale Copyright: Copyright 2008 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.